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Market-induced Asset Specificity: Redefining the Hold-up Problem

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  • Lewin-Solomons, S.

Abstract

In a standard hold-up problem, individuals are vulnerable to hold-up because it is impossible to write complete contracts to cover the lifespan of relationship-specific investments. Hold-up occurs only when investments are to some degree nongeneric, and the extent of the problem increases with the time-span over which an investment must pay off, since long-term contracts are more difficult to write than short-term contracts. This result appears inconsistent with the real life experience of contract suppliers in two respects. First, suppliers often consider themselves "vulnerable" to hold-up even when investments are generic. Second, such a sense of vulnerability is often greatest precisely when assets are short-lived rather than long-lived. This paper provides a model that solves this apparent paradox by looking beyond the isolated problem of bilateral monopoly to the market context in which contracting takes place. We then find that the very meaning of asset specificity comes into question.

Suggested Citation

  • Lewin-Solomons, S., 2003. "Market-induced Asset Specificity: Redefining the Hold-up Problem," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0304, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0304
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
    2. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1993. "Investments, Holdup, and the Form of Market Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 811-837, September.
    3. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
    4. George J. Stigler, 1951. "The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of the Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59, pages 185-185.
    5. Ramey Garey & Watson Joel, 2001. "Bilateral Trade and Opportunism in a Matching Market," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-35, November.
    6. Vetter, Henrik & Andersen, Torben M, 1994. "Do Turnover Costs Protect Insiders?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(422), pages 124-130, January.
    7. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J., 1991. "Interactions between the efficiency wage and insider-outsider theories," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 193-196, October.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    asset specificity; hold-up; market structure; contracts;

    JEL classification:

    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • M2 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design

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